Network Topology Mapper Free

Mar 19, 2021 SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper (FREE TRIAL) SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper is our top choice for the best network diagramming tool on the market for administrators. A built-in network scanner probes the network during its first launch to find devices and map out the architecture of your network. Nmap is quite a popular free open source network mapping software for Windows. It is used for various tasks like network discovery, security auditing, network inventory, monitoring hosts, etc. It is basically a command line utility, but it provides a GUI too called Zenmap.Using it, you can scan devices connected in a network and view networks map.

Networks are rapidly becoming larger and more complex, with numerous technologies playing into their growth and expansion. Network mapping has become increasingly important for administrators and managers tasked with handling these growing networks. Though the process of local area network (LAN) mapping can be performed manually, this manual work is risky, as there’s a higher chance something will be missed when it involves highly complex networks.

With the significant amount of network topology mapping software available on the market these days, I decided to review the tools network pros need to check out to help reduce their workloads and improve accuracy. I go over why SolarWinds® Network Topology Mapper (NTM) is a top choice for those looking for high-quality mapping software. Spoiler alert: this tool uses the best network mapping techniques to automatically discover your network topology, and it creates several types of informative visualizations, allowing you to easily see and navigate your network. And if you need a more comprehensive monitoring solution, I explain why SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is a good all-in-one option for those looking for a tool with other essential performance measuring tools in addition to a network topology mapper.

But First: What Is Network Mapping?

Network topology mapping is the process of visually and logically mapping the network to understand the connections between the server and different nodes. Network performance software and tools usually include some network mapping features to help optimize the network.

Network maps are useful resources when admins conduct performance monitoring processes to check each part of the network. Maps can help show where performance bottlenecks exist and where there are opportunities to improve, improving service quality for end-users. Network performance monitoring outputs admins can visualize in network maps include metrics like the latency between the server and clients, bandwidth, throughput, and errors or failures.

Why You Should Use a Network Topology Mapper

Network topology mapping gives you a high degree of visibility into your network and the relationships between your network devices. This visibility can be extremely useful for everything from troubleshooting problems to maintaining network security. Even if you use the best network mapping techniques, manual mapping is a time-consuming process often resulting in incomplete topology diagrams if you don’t keep up with each new device added to or removed from your network.

You should use a network topology mapper to make sure your network topology diagrams are always up-to-date. A robust network topology mapper offers network admins the tools they need to map networks at any scale, from the smallest business to the biggest enterprise. It also lets you map a specific packet pathway for help with traffic bottlenecks and service provider status. With a network topology mapper, admins can see a device’s status as well as its logical connections at the touch of a button. In short, if you’re interested in having a topology map capable of giving you the insights you need to improve your network performance, you need to use a network topology mapper.

Top Network Mapping Techniques

There are a few ways to think about network mapping techniques. The first is to consider physical vs. logical topology mapping. Physical mapping is all about the concrete network, from cables to terminations. Logical network mapping is more common, and it focuses on data behavior within the networked environment rather than the physical layer. A logical network map is appropriate for a greater range of use cases, as it provides an accurate sense of how the network’s data actually works, with insight into features like routers, subnets, and so on. However, a physical map can be useful for network engineers.

Another way to think about network mapping techniques is to consider manual, semi-automated, and fully automated techniques for creating maps. Manual maps take time to create and aren’t useful for highly dynamic networks. But a manually created Visio map can be useful if you want to create a highly complex, nested map to fit unique specifications.

For most, semi-automated or automated network topology mapping is more useful and feasible. A semi-automated map might be able to automatically discover new devices on the network, but you’ll still need to take steps to position devices and set connections correctly. Automated network topology mapping is responsive to your network environment as it changes, adjusting devices, their connections, and the performance of those connections on an ongoing basis to display an updated and complete logical map.

To optimize your network topology mapping efforts, you should invest in a tool capable of automating the mapping process, creating an initial network map when it’s first installed, and regularly scanning your network to ensure the map always reflects your current network and device relationships. The best network topology mappers will also be configurable and customizable, allowing you to adjust the frequency of network scans and easily create visual representations of different aspects of your network.

Best Network Mapping Tools

I believe using network mapping software is a vital step in managing your network efficiently and professionally in any business setting. There are several tools you can use, including some free network topology mapper tools, but I recommend a couple of products due to their extensive feature lists and easy-to-use nature.

Network Topology Mapper

SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper is a dedicated network mapping tool. It automatically discovers and maps out your network topology and shows you the structure of your network in easy-to-view diagrams.

From a single network scan, NTM can build multiple maps, allowing you to compare and choose the map best suited to your needs. It also integrates well with other software, allowing you to export to Microsoft Office Visio as well as PDF and PNG formats. You can try NTM free for 14 days.

Best Free Network Mapper

Network Performance Monitor

For a more comprehensive network topology mapper with additional features, I recommend SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor. NPM includes packet-level network topology insights (including cloud and VMware environments) and also offers great Wi-Fi heat mapping tools.

With the NetPath function, you can gain insight not just into your own network but into data pathways all the way to destination services. You can see hop-by-hop packet paths and instantly know where issues are occurring. You also get features such as the PerfStack dashboard, which allows you to compare the performance of different metrics side by side.

NPM includes troubleshooting features and alerts and is designed to be an easily scalable and reliable centralized network management tool. This is my pick if you want a truly comprehensive tool for provisioning and maintaining your network topology. You can get more information about the features of this network mapping tool here.

PRTG Network Monitor

PRTG Network Monitor is another comprehensive network topology mapping software offering network monitoring for the entire network, including network traffic, application performance, cloud services, and database capacity as well as network uptime, security, and hardware longevity. You can use it for network topology mapping, as it allows you to create maps using the PRTG map designer. This is a manual process, but once you’ve created the maps, you can use them to view network information in real time for your devices, connections, and status updates. This software is on the pricier end for what it offers.

Intermapper

Another great option for network mapping software is the Intermapper tool by HelpSystems. The Intermapper tool has both network mapping and network performance monitoring features, and it has cross-vendor support for Cisco, Apple, Dell, and more. With an intuitive and clear display, it provides a fully customizable network map, allowing you to see real-time network health with color-coded animations. You can choose either device-based pricing or a flat fee for unlimited devices.

Visio

Visio is the Microsoft diagramming and vector application for creating maps and charts (including network maps). Visio isn’t technically a network mapping tool, but network administrators can use it for this purpose. However, the network diagram needs to be created manually using the “Detailed Network Diagram” template. Generally, automatic network mapping tools may be more suitable for troubleshooting and security purposes. Visio can be an inexpensive option for an enterprise unwilling to invest in automated and comprehensive network mapping software.

Getting Started With Network Mapping

As you can tell, there’s a lot of network topology mapping software out there, from simple network topology mappers and flow-chart programs to comprehensive network performance tools. When compared to some of the best free mapping software, paid products might seem expensive at first glance. However, paid network mapping and performance monitoring tools are much more comprehensive, reliable, and complete when it comes to usefully mapping your network.

I highly recommend SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor or Network Topology Mapper for professional network administrators looking for tools to help them manage their environments.

Recommended Reading:

Ultimate Guide to Network Monitoring: If you’re looking at mapping your network and using software to do so, make sure you look at this comprehensive guide on network monitoring. Understanding your network and how it functions is essential for the mapping process to be useful.

Throughout my career in TCP/IP networking (mainly with Cisco products) I have learned a very important lesson: Spending some time to create Documentation for your projects will pay dividends down the road. An important part of this Documentation is a network diagram/topology of your Network project.

Moreover, another primary task you will need to perform when managing and monitoring a network is to map it.

Most network monitoring tools feature the network mapping functionality natively, with autodiscovery mechanisms that display your entire list of equipment inventory.

Nonetheless, an automated mapper isn’t always the best solution. In some cases, you would be much better off if you could create a custom topology diagram via a graphical Network Diagram Software.

This is especially the case if you’re designing a new network or intend to expand an existing one. In such cases, autodiscovery will be helpful but, most importantly, creating a custom Diagram of your network will help you understand how each device is interconnected and will greatly help in troubleshooting problems.

In this post, we list the 15 best network diagram software and topology mapper tools, including both free and paid options. The list of the tools below is in no particular order.

Table of Contents

#1 Draw.io (FREE)

Draw.io is one of my favourite free options.

It is completely online (browser based) and features an accessible and responsive interface with the main drawing area in the middle and the tools/devices column on the left.

When you visit the website it will ask you to create a new Diagram or open an existing one.

Clicking on “Create New Diagram” will open up various categories of schematics that you can start designing. Usually I select the “Network” category as shown below:

After selecting the “Network” (or any other category) you will be presented with several ready-made sample diagrams as shown below:

Freeware

Just click one of the ready-made diagrams and then click the “Create” button to start modifying/editing the selected diagram or maybe delete everything and create your own from scratch.

From the moment you start using the tool, you have the option to save your work to cloud services like OneDrive and Google Drive, though you don’t need to sign up for an account to use the service.

You also have the option of connecting Draw.io to your Google account, which give you functional real-time collaboration, where you can work on projects simultaneously with others.

The main drawback of Draw.io is that it doesn’t create very detailed and very high-resolution diagrams. However, for day-to-day work or for documenting your network it will serve you just fine.

#2 Microsoft Visio (PAID)

Visio is a high-end design tool that can create charts, diagrams, flow-charts, engineering designs, floor plans etc. It has been the de facto standard for quite a while.

The main feature of Visio is in its use of object stencils as primary components. There are many different sets of stencils for all kinds of use, including a rich array of network symbols or network equipment.

Some manufacturers (e.g. /fable-3-serial-key-generator/. Cisco) provide downloadable Visio stencils that you can use with your network diagrams.

Originally Visio started as a desktop application (like Microsoft Word, Excel etc) and can create high-resolution diagrams (300 dpi or more) with any size you want. Now, there is a web based version (Visio for the Web) which helps you work together on diagrams from a web browser, from almost anywhere in the world.

It is the most comprehensive network diagram tool and I use it extensively in my professional work environment.

Current Pricing:

  • $299.99 for Standard Edition
  • $589.99 for Professional Edition
  • License per user for the Pro version in Office 365

#3 SmartDraw (PAID)

SmartDraw’s network diagram software aims to provide the easiest and fastest way to create network diagrams. They also claim on their website that the tool is easier than Visio and more powerful than Microsoft Office.

Being web-based, it can run on any computer or tablet.

To use it, you only need to view some examples, choose a template, add your network design symbols of choice, input the necessary information, and that’s it.

SmartDraw will handle the rest for you. It ideally aligns everything automatically, and applies a professional look making sure the final diagram is presentation-ready.

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Current Pricing:

  • $9.95/User Per Year for the Enterprise Edition

#4 LucidChart (FREE+PAID)

This is another one of the well-known network diagramming platforms that actually packs an incredible punch. For anyone looking to fast track their diagram production and process management, then LucidChart could be the best solution for you.

From the start, you can jump right into a template and start making your diagram. While there isn’t any native autodiscovery features here, LucidChart is now compatible with UVexplorer, which you can use as a plugin for autodiscovery purposes.

Current Pricing:

  • Free single user license (with limits)
  • $9.95/User Per Month for the Pro Version

#5 ConceptDraw (PAID)

For small and medium sized businesses, ConceptDraw stands out as a great mapping and diagram program on this list. Clearly inspired by Microsoft’s Visio, the user interface lets you create a variety of diagrams for your network environment and export Visio files.

While it might look like a generic network schematic tool, ConceptDraw has quite the depth required to build complex network designs.

Moreover, features like Smart Connector and Building Plan Designer allow you to automate the entire process of creating network diagrams.

This makes it ideal for organizations that have to keep up with dynamic environments. The program is also easy to use, and if you are conversant with Microsoft Word, you can easily find your way around it in no time.

It is a desktop app for Windows and MAC.

Current Pricing:

  • $199 per license

#6 Creately (FREE+PAID)

This is a rather neat drawing creation tool with specialized icons and templates for network diagrams.

As a pure design tool, Creately doesn’t feature any form of autodiscovery. Nonetheless, you can use it alongside a basic network explorer like LANTopoLog to make the most out of it.

Creately comes with a huge selection of templates, each with its own set of icons. The available layouts include WAN views that feature cloud and city icons. There’s also a collaboration feature that enable you to give viewing or editing access to other users.

It works on both Cloud (web based) and Desktop options.

Current Pricing:

  • $75 Desktop Personal (paid once)
  • $349 Desktop Team – 5 users (paid once)
  • $5/month Personal (Cloud)
  • $25/month 5-user Team (Cloud)
  • Free Option (for 5 public Documents)

#7 Visual Paradigm (PAID)

This is an online diagram creation tool that supports a wide range of technical and business types of diagrams, including flowcharts, UML, ERD, ArchiMate, Mind Maps, DFD, Floor plan, Org. Chart, and BPMN.

Visual Paradigm online provides you with a free online workspace that lets you create an unlimited number of shapes and diagrams.

Current Pricing:

  • Ranging between $99 and $1999 for the Perpetual License
  • Ranging between $6/mo and $89/mo for subscription License

#8 Edraw (PAID)

This is a general plan, map, and chart creation tool that features some awesome formats specialized for network topology schematics.

The editor includes libraries of IT and network equipment in different styles, including 3D, Basic, and Detailed. It also has a rich library of icons, meaning you can create network diagrams that look as though they came from a professional company.

There are separate and specialized libraries and examples of different diagram types focused on Cisco Networks, Azure, AWS diagrams, Rack schematics, LDAP, Active Directory etc.

Edraw also has a stable of products with different specialization. For network diagramming, check out Edraw Max, which has a free trial.

The tool works as Desktop app on Windows and MAC

Current Pricing:

  • $179 single user Perpetual License
  • $99 per year subscription license

#9 Dia Diagram Editor (FREE)

Smaller enterprises that only need an entry-level network diagramming tool should consider Dia. While the program’s overall appearance is kind of rudimentary, it somehow redeems itself with cross-OS compatibility.

Dia lets you create a wide range of network maps, and has all of the core IT component graphics so that you can clearly see what you’re dealing with.

Nonetheless, despite Dia being a great free tool, it simply isn’t capable of mapping out complex network infrastructures. For this reason, this tool is only suitable for smaller enterprises looking to experiment with a free network diagram tool.

#10 SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper (PAID)

This is easily one of the most popular and recommended network topology tools available today. SolarWinds ideally features all of the fundamental components you’d expect from a premium network topology program (including network monitoring), however with a “spicy” price tag.

It comes with an autodiscovery feature, which can be scheduled to detect new devices automatically and scale routinely based on the network infrastructure.

What sets this program apart is the autodiscovery feature. It really helps to get your diagram mapping completed without wasting lots of time building one from scratch using templates.

After scanning the network to map it graphically, you can export the network diagram to Visio format so that you can edit or enhance it accordingly. Moreover, any changes to the actual network are auto-detected by the tool.

Current Pricing:

  • $1495

#11 Intermapper (PAID)

The Intermapper tool includes an automatic discovery and mapping feature that gets you started fast when it comes to creating your own plan. Intermapper’s autodiscovery system can plot both a virtualization and a physical network topology.

Its graphics editor features a library of icons, with the option of creating your own. The tool is also capable of storing network performance data to help with SLA compliance reporting and capacity planning. The free plan limits you to monitoring only 10 devices, and the paid version is available for a one-off fee or as a subscription service.

#12 Network Notepad (FREE + PAID)

This includes both a commercial (Notepad Professional) and a Freeware edition specifically made for drawing and mapping network elements.

Although Network Notepad lacks extensive autodiscovery capabilities, it does come with the CDP discovery tool that helps to discover all network neighbours in the topology. This CDP add-on also lets the user search through the network and pull information from the devices.

You can optionally expand to the paid software: The Network Notepad Professional Edition, and transform it into a network monitoring tool by integrating with NNMonitor, a Ping scanner utility.

Both the Free and Pro versions run only on Windows machines.

Current Pricing:

  • £26 GBP (per PC license) for the Professional Edition

#13 LanFlow (PAID with free trial)

Produced by Pacestar Software, the LanFlow Net Diagrammer includes libraries of both 2D and 3D icons, which enable you to create your own network topology maps.

You can also create your own icons or import icons from another graphics tool. The editor uses the drag and drop feature, which lets you choose icons from a side panel and then place them onto a design board. While this is a paid product, it’s possible to get an evaluation copy on a 30-day free trial.

This is a purely network diagram utility and is used by many Cisco professionals and students preparing for certifications.

Current Pricing:

  • $99 single user license
  • $179 two-users license
  • $259 three-users license
  • etc

#14 netTerrain (PAID)

netTerrain is a cloud-based product of Graphical Networks, a company that produces a wide range of network management software.

netTerrain is a network documentation system that compiles the hardware inventory and generates network topology diagrams by probing the network.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to stick with the generated diagrams as the program lets you adjust the topology to meet the unique needs of your project.

The tool also supports network reorganization and capacity planning. The extra features let you identify and shut down any security weaknesses within your network. The tool is also compatible with Visio, meaning you can exchange data from netTerrain Logical to a whole variety of tools aligned with Visio.

Current Pricing:

  • $98/mo single user (250 devices)
  • $198/mo 5-users (500 devices)
  • $498/mo 20-users (1000 devices)

#15 LanTopoLog (FREE)

This is a free (shareware) network mapping tool created by enthusiasts. While you won’t get a physical layout of your network from this tool, the information displayed in the mapper will give you a straightforward representation of all the data you need from the network rather quickly.

LanTopoLog also features a network discovery capability based on SNMP. The resulting diagram, which is automatically generated, ideally shows every device in your network, along with the other devices that it connects to.

The result is a rich schematic tree structure with IP addresses, host names, and port numbers of every device in the network and its corresponding connections. It even includes a Ping monitoring tool to visualize which devices are up and which are down.

For a free tool, it works pretty good if you don’t want more fancy features.

Closing Summary

As you can already see from the list above, there’s no shortage of network diagramming tools available to you, no matter the intended use.

These tools range from rudimentary mapping solutions with autodiscovery features to sophisticated graphical solutions with or without autodiscovery capability.

Each tool has its own pros and cons, and the best tool for your project will depend on your specific use case and the nature of your network.

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